Perfect day for GB at Slowpitch World Cup

Sat 17 Nov 2018

By Mike MacDowell

Plant City, Florida: 15 November -- After going 3-0 on the second day of the 2019 WBSC Slowpitch World Cup on Friday, GB finished the round robin with a 5-1 record – but in third place.

In the final round-round table, GB came behind the USA on runs conceded and curiously behind the Bahamas due to the tiebreak protocol used by the WSBC, which uses runs conceded between three tied teams to determine the top place, and then reverts to head-to-head to determine the next two places.

All three teams had finished the round-robin with 5-1 records.

This means that GB will play in the first knockout round on Saturday against Curaçao Two at 12:00 pm local time.

With three strong performances on Friday, GB is well placed to go deep into the knockout round and hopefully medal or win the tournament for the first time since the inaugural Slowpitch World Cup in 2002.

GB 16, Germany 7

Given that the last competitive game between Germany and GB ended with Germany winning the European Slowpitch Championship back in 2017, it's safe to say that there is a lot of competitive history and spirit between the two teams.

In this instance, GB played an effective brand of softball in the opening game of the day which not only resulted in a win, but also a performance that suggests they are in this tournament for the long haul and will be a threat in the knockout rounds.

GB struck first. 

In the top of the first inning Aaron Thomas reached safely on a good hit, Ruth Macintosh walked followed by Steve Hazard and Chris Yoxall, and then Kelvin Harrison smashed a line drive through third base to score them.  Unfortunately, the German third base player, Barbara Herzgen, took the ball on her hand and was unable to take any further part in the game.  We wish her well and hope that the injury does not prove to be too serious.  Kelvin was quick to make sure that she was okay given the longstanding friendships between a lot of the German and GB players.

With any injury break in a game, it can be difficult for a team to re-focus, but GB managed this well and continued to bring runners across the plate as the game went on.  Kelvin Harrison hit a big home run as GB added to their total without ever really putting the Germans out of sight.

This was not going to be a game that GB were going to lose, however, as they fielded spectacularly, with two good double plays turned and outstanding catches in the outfield from Sherry Kenyon at full stretch and Chris Yoxall sliding to make up ground to the ball.

GB finished the stronger of the teams too, with Steve Hazard and Kirstie Leach reaching in the top of the last inning, followed by a pinch-hit single by Christa Reed-Thomas and an RBI double from Danielle Atkinson.  GB finished 16-7 winners and went immediately into their second game against the Turks and Caicos Islands.

GB 14, Turks and Caicos Islands 5

The Turks and Caicos Islands have looked dangerous on occasions during this tournament, with men that can hit for power and women who can hit all around the field, and they should have perhaps won more games on the opening day than their solitary win over Curaçao Two.  They did take Curaçao One to extra innings, but their tendency to go for the big hit or the big play let them down and they lost on that occasion.

So it was important in the second of back-to-back games that GB played well and made sure they controlled the contest.  Mark Bowman enabled this from the pitcher’s circle, with three strikeouts on batters looking and numerous fly balls and weak grounders to the infield.

Head Coach Stephen Patterson shuffled the pack for this game, and the players involved will have pleased him with their contributions following the comprehensive win over Germany.

The pace of the game was slow, with the methodical Turks and Caicos pitcher taking her time over every pitch and GB hitters waiting for their opportunities to strike.  Joe Grantham and Robbie Studholme hit inside-the-park home runs and Matt Tomlin led the way with three hits.

Eventually, Assistant Coach David Lee came into the game to pitch to give regular pitchers Mark Bowman and Matt Tomlin a rest and shut down the Turks and Caicos offense as the game finished 14-5 to GB.

GB 20, Curaçao One 7

Having won their first two games, GB were looking for a clean sweep on Friday to end the round-robin.

They jumped out to an early six-run lead in the top of the first inning, with a big home run from Kelvin Harrison.  However, Curaçao came straight back with their own strong hitting performance and scored six of their own to tie the game.

Another big inning for GB came in the third, however, when they scored seven runs to pad their lead.  Kelvin Harrison again had the big blow, a home run to lead off the inning which propelled GB to bat around the order.

Curaçao One offered less of an offensive threat from this point, with Matt Tomlin keeping the hitters off balance with a good mix of pitches, and some lovely infield play from Aaron Thomas, Steve Hazard and Danielle Atkinson.  There were also some good stretches by Hannah Pitman at first base, and Hannah also contributed on the offensive side with three hits.

In the end, the result was a comfortable 20-7 win that put GB in a great position for the double elimination knock-out round that will start on Saturday.

Home Run Derby

A home run derby for the World Cup teams took place in the Plant City Stadium on Friday evening.  GB's representatives were Chris Yoxall, Mike MacDowell and Christa Reed-Thomas, with Matt Tomlin designated as their pitcher.

Mike went first in the derby, and after a slow start lined a couple of deep shots but was unable to add to them.  Chris went next, and hit four long home runs, and perhaps could have had a couple more if he had been a little pickier with the pitches.  Crista followed, and although she did not hit one out of the park (310-foot fences), she performed very well, with her longest hit travelling over 225 feet.

This was enough to place Chris first overall in the men's category and Crista second overall in the women's category.  Mike entered into a playoff round for third place in the men's category but was unable to add to his total.

Scores and standings

Scores from Day 2, which completed the round-robin phase of the tournament, were:

GB 16, Germany 7
GB 14, Turks & Caicos Islands 5
USA 25, Curacao Two 1
GB 20, Curacao One 7
Bahamas 21, Curacao Two 5
USA 33, Curacao One 4
Bahamas 13, Curacao One 10
Bahamas 24, Germany 13
Germany 16, Turks & Caicos Islands 8
USA 25, Turks & Caicos Islands 3

The final round-robin standings were:

Bahamas (5-1)
USA (5-1)
Great Britain (5-1)
Curaçao One (3-3)
Germany (2-4)
Curaçao Two (1-5)
Turks & Caicos Islands (0-6)

Photos by Pete Saunders

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